In mid February of this year (2018) I met with a friend of mine to ask him to honestly review my graphic design portfolio, along with some illustration work I had been doing. I had reached a point in my life where I needed to choose between investing in life on the farm, life as a graphic designer, and life as an illustrator.
As much as I enjoyed the problem-solving end of Graphic Design, the rest of it wasn't terribly interesting to me, and in a way I dreaded going back to it. Illustration was much closer to what I loved, but I figured I wasn't quite good enough at it. It was becoming clear to me that the time had come to get serious about picking one, and I couldn't continue splitting my days between my responsibilities on the farm and trying to get various illustration projects off the ground in my remaining time. To me, it looked like a choice between a job that made good money and kept me comfortable, a career in a field I didn't love but was close enough for now, or take a chance in a field I wouldn't be very successful in for a while.
And so, in late February I met with this guy at a local coffee shop hoping, at best, for ways to pep up my lackluster design portfolio. As a veteran of the Graphic Design industry, he had some enlightening advice regarding my portfolio...
"Don't show this to anyone."
It was a relief to be honest. It narrowed my choices down to Illustration. Or so I thought when he began to look through the illustrations I had brought with me. He stopped on the first one, an illustration I was working on for a short story I was writing and illustrating as one of my projects.
"You know what you should do?" he said, only half looking up from the illustration.
I leaned in, ready for a hot tip on getting into an illustrator position.
"You should move to Los Angeles for a few months, and look into the Animation Industry."
It was the last thing I expected to hear because it seemed like the least practical thing to do. At the same time however, it was permission to acknowledge a secret ambition of mine - a strange love of movies and storytelling laced with a desire be a part of that world in some way.
But there was no way.
That was the first minute of my reaction.
The next thirty minutes warmed me up to the idea as life experience. Go to LA, take some classes, at least you can say you did it. It started to appeal to me.
Within a matter of hours, I had put my work and experience in graphic design and illustration into the context of the animation industry, along with a growing passion for storytelling, love of comics and sequential art, and, oddly enough, writing, that I had been nursing all through college and beyond. "Oh yeah," said the Kronk voice in my head, "it's all comin' together".
In the ensuing weeks I discovered the area in the industry I would target- storyboarding. My only previous experience in this discipline had been a rather embarrassing episode while freelancing (that I'd rather not talk about thankyouverymuch), and thumbnailing ideas for pages and panels for my illustrations. The more research I did, the more confident I was in my chances of getting into this little corner of the industry.
My mind was made up, I would find a school in the Los Angeles area that offered summer classes on the subject of storyboarding, maybe sprinkle in a few additional classes on subjects in which I was lacking.
Oh, the things I had yet to learn.
In the spirit of the saying that "it's not the destination, but the journey that's important", I've titled this series "Getting There." While I appreciate this saying, the journey would not exist if not for the destination, therefore the title "Getting There" is a reference as much to the destination as it is to the journey.
The "Getting There" series is a collection of brief, episodic articles describing my ongoing journey into the animation industry.
By Alex Esbenshade